Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton under fire for cost of newspaper column

MANSFIELD’S mayor has faced calls from some councillors to scrap a paid-for newspaper column branded an ‘inappropriate’ use of money.

Tony Egginton’s weekly ‘More from the Mayor’ piece in Chad should be abandoned so its £10,500 annual cost can go towards services, Labour members say.

Councillor Adrian Harpham submitted a motion to a full council meeting last Tuesday, calling for it to be scrapped ‘as soon as possible’.

The motion was backed via a vote by members.

But Independent Mr Egginton appears ready to use his power as executive mayor to maintain the column.

He said the articles, entitled ‘More from the Mayor’, were well-regarded and part of his ‘fundamental duty’ of engaging with the public.

Said Labour group leader Martin Lee: “Having looked at the column over a period of time, it’s apparent that rather than informing readers of what the council does, it’s more about promoting him as an individual.

“I think that’s an inappropriate use of money that could be spent elsewhere.

“I don’t think it explains what the council is trying to do and there are lots of cheaper ways of explaining what the council offers.”

The cash could be used to try to reduce the impact of Government and Nottinghamshire County Council grant and budget cuts, he said.

Instead the authority could rely on cheaper internet social networks and its own website, he added.

Defending the column, Mr Egginton said: “In the past the Council has been criticised for not communicating with the public.

“This is something I have worked to improve as openness and transparency are key to my terms of office.”

He added it was introduced in 2003 after an Audit Commission report said the council needed to improve its communications strategy.

“The column is non-political and includes stories about the community; people who deserve special mention as they have achieved something or overcome adversity, and council information, such as key meeting and diary dates.

“I receive a lot of positive comments about the column from members of the public and often get requests to cover items of local community interest within it.

“It is also an effective way of reaching people who don’t have access or choose not to use the internet.”

Mr Egginton’s stance was backed by councillor Christine Smith, new leader of the Mansfield Independent Forum, who voted to keep the column.

She said the articles were ‘effective’ in keeping people in touch with the council.

Coun Lee said it would be ‘regrettable’ if the mayor continued with the column in light of the motion.

“We (the Labour group) don’t oppose a forum for putting across what the council does but there are cheaper ways of doing it,” he added.

“This is about getting value for money.”